Chewing the Fat

by James Fletcher
The Waters
Honorable Mention, January 2022
Judged by Carol Graser

My dead grandfather and I sip lemonade
under the cottonwood he planted as a fencepost.
His tiny tool shed is there filled
with hard iron implements, hefty with longevity.
I used to sit on that tractor seat
with the pedals that turned the massive stone
grinding wheel he used to sharpen tools.
We both know none of that is still there
but he’s not fazed. I have to do all the talking
for us since he’s dead. He doesn’t mind.
Never was a chatterbox. We both smell the dumplings
grandma’s cooking in the kitchen. Speckles
of blood all over the grass where we sit from
that chicken after cutting his head off.
Grandpa pulls out some ‘baccy and rolls
a cigarette, tosses me the empty pouch. Once
I had a bunch of these. Great for marbles.
Grandma sewed ‘em shut after filling with beans.
Now that he’s dead, grandpa doesn’t worry
about getting caught smoking. She disapproved
most everything except praising Jesus.
He still wears that old sweated hat
and ‘spenders to hold up his loose britches.
He looks comfy, at ease in his lanky frame.
Born under a flag with thirty-eight stars,
died under forty-nine, but he doesn’t talk about
the past. Wish he would. So many questions
I ask but he always uses being dead as an excuse
not to answer. Makes me dig around on my own,
in archives and gravestones and stories uncovered.
“Guess I’d better mosey on back,” he says
rising, heading for the old house, fading with
each step until only this memory remains.
Leaving me holding that draw-string muslin pouch.